A 1st Avenue private auto inspection business owner and his two employees pleaded guilty to charges of using data simulators to produce false motor vehicle emission inspection results, announced the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office on Monday afternoon.
The owner of Five Stars Auto Inspection Christopher Alcantara, 29, of Paterson; Mariano Alcantara, 52, of Clifton; and Lewis Alcantara-Sosa, 23, of Paterson, each pleaded guilty to third-degree charge of tampering with public records and violating the Air Pollution Control Act before New Jersey Superior Court Judge Edward A. Jerejian in Bergen County.
Under the plea agreement the three entered into with the state prosecutors will recommend each be sentenced to 364 days in county jail and be on probation for a three-year period. Christopher Alcantara, Mariano Alcantara (an uncle to Christopher Alcantara), and Lewis Alcantara-Sosa (cousin of Christopher and nephew of Mariano) were indicted on October 9, 2014, following a joint investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
The state’s investigation found that from September 2013 through January 2014 the three men temporarily installed onboard diagnostic (OBD) system simulators in vehicles that failed emission inspections to generate false data that enabled the vehicles to pass inspection.
Most passenger vehicles made after 1996 come equipped with an OBD system that monitors the vehicle’s emission system. During an inspection an inspector at a private facility or a central inspection facility usually connects a state-approved “data link connector” to the OBD system to retrieve data in order to determine whether a vehicle passes or fails emission inspection. With simulators the three men were able to pass vehicles through inspection that have or would otherwise fail the emission inspection.
The three charged customers between $80 to $150 for simulator use, authorities said. The three often took vehicles to Lodi and Paramus central inspection facilities after installing the simulators at their 34 1st Avenue shop, authorities said.
Authorities said the three agreed to install simulators in two undercover vehicles so the vehicles could pass inspection.
Investigators raided the shop on January 15, 2013 finding six OBD simulators and records. Christopher Alcantara and Mariano Alcantara arrested the same day and were detained in jail with $50,000 bail each. Lewis Alcantara-Sosa was charged and released.
Sentencing for the three men is scheduled for May 8 before Judge Jerejian.